I was invited to fish for halibut by a friend and his girlfriend’s dad and dad’s co-worker. I stayed in Anacortes Thursday night and we checked out at 4am to meet Steve and drive to the launch at Washington Park. There we met Rydell, whose boat we would be taking out and who proved to be an incredible guide. He’d live in or very near to Anacortes all his life. His system for fishing halibut was very dialed in and meticulous. From the choice of waters to the anchor system to the chum-on-the-downrigger. We anchored in about 113 feet of water (shallower than I expected) and Rydell got all the gear in the water promptly after a lesson on rigging the herring and the rational behind using both octopus and herring (rigged to look like the octopus is attacking the herring). Our phone service was alternating between towers in Canada and the US. We hooked two big halibut before 11am. I reeled in a 61lb fish and Perry, about an hour later, a 45lb fish. In checking in with the fish checker we learned that these were the two biggest fish caught at least two of the launches in the area. I’d like to think they were the two biggest fish in the state caught that day.
After being on the water for 12 hours, we docked and Perry and I went to Deception Pass where he and I would stay for a night and he left in the morning. I had three more friends coming up to meet me from Seattle and they arrived close to 11am and we tried fishing for searun cutthroat underneath the Deception Pass Bridge and then loaded up the pontoons to try and fish Pass Lake.
Pass is a flyfishing-only lake that we were undergunned for. The fish were deep and our flys were not. I also fished Cranberry Lake and hooked about three fish and landed none. Trout fishing was finicky but the trip was good recon and I’ll be better prepared next time.
I fished for fours in a downpour today at Rattlesnake Lake. The plan was to hike the shoreline, but once I arrived and the wind was minimal, I assembled my pontoon and headed out about 150 yards from the boat launch. I caught my first trout on a fly. A red beaded, grizzly hackled, brown tailed wooly bugger that I cast and stripped back in. My casting is improving and I learned a lot today. I used that fly all day and landed four on it. I also had my ultralight spinning rod and was getting bites every other cast on a red Mepps spinner. I landed another five on the spinner. The lake was very active with trout, they were jumping all around all afternoon. The water was bright green and not as murky as would be expected with all of the rain. A great day fishing and I’m glad to have made despite the last two days of rain. There was only one other angler on the water and he was catching his share too with a nymph below an indicator.
While I haven’t been able to fish as much as I’d like lately this late winter, I have been catching up on my reading and online media that serves as a source of information and inspiration when I’m stuck in the city. Podcasts have never been something I thought I had time for. But lately on a long drive to Oregon to visit my girlfriend’s family, she suggested we listen to some podcasts that she had been listening to on her commutes. They were mostly popular comedy or investigative reporting shows. This trip led to me searching for fishing-related podcasts and other online streaming interviews and outdoors shows that I may listen to on my own commutes and even while I am at the tying bench. My searches led me to April Vokey’s Anchoredpodcast and I have been steadily getting through her casual and informative interviews with some legends of fly fishing. The interviews range from fascinating and engaging to infuriating (in a productive way) and reflective. I’ve embedded the audio for her interview with Lani Waller below, which was the first one I listened to and a captivating listen as he recalls the story of his life spent fishing and a horrifying near-death experience. His easy-going manner and the masterful storytelling of his fascinating life had me really envious for April’s opportunity to sit and spend time with him. What conveys over the audio is a truly intimate conversation, rich in that feeling you feel when sitting down and listening to an elder who you know has something to teach you about life. I also have to suggest her interview with Seattle-local Dave McCoy who owns Emerald Water Anglers and is a passionate advocate for wild steelhead preservation here in my home state of Washington.
With the weather as nice as it’s been I packed up my pontoon and headed an hour south back to Offut Lake in Tenino, Washington. I just recently purchased my first fly rod and reel and wanted to practice some casting, and perhaps get into one or two of the 900 Eells Springs Hatchery Cutthroat that were stocked in mid-January. While casting the flyrod I had another line in the water fishing from the bottom with bait for some of the rainbow trout that are put in the lake by both WDFW and the stocking program at Offut Lake Resort, who have their own pen at their dock. Thankfully my casting greatly improved over the course of the day as I recalled the large amounts of information gleamed from Youtube videos and got into a rhythm. Biggest challenge is being aware of where both my hands are at all times. I’m hoping that the difficulty added to the learning process by the fact that I was sitting down on the water all day will contribute to marked improvement once I get the chance to practice again while standing. I didn’t get any takes on the fly rod. All I was doing was casting woolly buggers and letting them sink a bit before stripping them back in jerkily and I wasn’t expecting much this first time actually getting my fly line wet. I did however manage to get three rainbows in the net and missed one on an early hook set with my spinning rod/bottom fishing set-up. I have to say I’m pretty happy with the way that my trout fishing has developed since last spring when I really started going at it again. I’m seriously looking forward to moving beyond the bait and wait game and take my developing skills with fly fishing up into the alpine lakes this summer and eastside rivers this spring.
Two years ago I fished Beaver Lake after WDFW stocked it with, if my memory serves me right, 3000 brood stock rainbow trout and landed one big one. This past Tuesday, Veterans Day, I fished Beaver again. WDFW had stocked it over the last week with 3-5 lb trout and I was on them all morning. It was cold and windy on the lake and twice my anchor was pulled by the wind and I found myself drifting steadily along, anchor swinging or dragging below me. I steadily caught fish from 8am to 1pm and had to keep my limit as I was using bait. These are true football trout and they fought well, peeling line off on multiple runs at times. A couple of the larger ones, with one of my keepers in particular, being responsible for the longest fights I’ve ever had while fishing for trout. I was using 4 lb test mainline strung on an ultralight St. Croix 2-piece and my bottom fishing trout rig. I was fishing from my pontoon and the wind would have been trouble without the anchor system and Minn Kota trolling motor.
I have a love/hate relationship with fishing in urban settings, although I concede that here in Seattle anglers are lucky to have access to excellent opportunities for catching trout, salmon, and steelhead within a half hour drive of the city or even within the city limits. Green Lake is a typical urban recreation and water sport mecca and was stocked with 40000+ trout in October. The 3 mile path around the lake is busy with joggers, strollers, and rollerbladers. The shores are lined with fishermen in their camp chairs and rod holders, and unfortunately the waters yesterday were filled with rowers competing in a regatta. I headed down yesterday afternoon with my ultra-light trout rod, a backpack full of powerbait, and a camp chair. Using my sliding cannonball set-up, I started with a fairly long leader and some rainbow trout nuggets without much success. I figured that there would be long grass on the bottom of the lake and that I needed to get my bait floating above it. In reeling in I noticed that the grass and milfoil that I was bringing in at times was short and not as abundant I I expected. Normally in adjusting my rig I like to change one variable at a time: first I change the leader length to see if that is the issue, then the bait choice, and then I’ll try casting hardware to see if the fish are hitting spoons and spinners on the surface. I changed two variables yesterday and immediately started getting bites. A shorter, 1-1.5 foot leader and sherbet trout nuggets were the key. I pulled in 3 cookie-cutter planters and lost a couple more. I’ve always used barbed, #6 or #8 red Gamakatsu bait hooks but am starting to crimp the barbs as I struggle with getting the hook out of these small fish without bloodshed. I have no interest in eating a stocker trout (or really any fish taken from fresh water) and a barbed hook makes the release difficult. These fish are nearly always hooked in the throat or tongue as they gulp the bait and a barbed hook is redundant if one plans to release them. I also worry about leaving a hook I can’t remove in a fish. The fish will likely live a shortened life with the metal in it and become dangerous food for water fowl or eagles. This worry was confirmed yesterday as I watched a bald eagle come down a hundred yards from where I was fishing and snatch a trout (one I just released?) off the surface of the water.
Faraday Lake is an hour outside of Portland, Oregon and is a small, 26 acre lake formed by a diversion dam on the Clackamas River. The dam has a fish ladder that allows salmon and steelhead to make their way through the lake as they head up the Clackamas. A friend and I fished for stocked trout at Faraday in a mix of sunshine and rain, catching 7 between the two of us in the 12″-14″ range. Our spot actually had some flow two it in the center channel of the lake and would have been prime float fishing if I had brought my centerpin gear. All of our luck with trout came on bait from the bottom and we did manage to spot some coho lazily floating by in the shallower water close to shore.
In what has become an annual tradition, I head out to the American River Guard Station off Highway 410 near Naches, Washington every October to spend a weekend playing poker and fishing the American, Bumping, and Naches River for cutthroat. The cabin was built in 1941 and is available for rental most of the year.
The American River runs alongside the site of the cabin and it’s easy hiking or short driving to holes, slots, and tail outs holding small to medium size cutthroat. On Saturday we drove along a road that paralleled the river and Highway 410 on the other side, exploring a road that wound through a few of the many campsites along that stretch. Hunters occupied the majority of the sites we saw that did have occupants and that the ample rain that started on Saturday afternoon pushed fisherman, hunters, and football fans into the comfy confines of the bar at Whistlin’ Jack Lodge.
We fished using ultralight spinning gear with #0 and #1 Mepps spinners being the lure of choice. I have caught more trout on the red and bronze Mepps than any other brand or color. They’ve worked for me in the Yakima, Skykomish, American, Bumping, Naches, Cle Elum, and Green River along with multiple high country, alpine lakes. When I’m not targeting stocked rainbows and in selective gear waters I’m using these small, red, Mepps spinners to catch wild trout.
There will be days when the fishing is better than one's most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home.